And she had picked me. She was here with me, instead of with her parents where they could all grieve the loss together. She trusted me to make things better for her and believed that I had something to offer that no one else did. So even though I was convinced I was emotionally tapped out, and that my heart and soul were barren of anything viable to offer, I was going to scrape the bottom of the emotional barrel and offer Avett Walker whatever scraps I had left so I could help her through this.
There was plenty of time to settle into being the angry, bitter, jaded, materialistic son of a bitch I had become since my divorce. With her, and for her, I could simply … exist. I didn’t have to force anything and life could simply be real. I wasn’t sure if I knew what a real life even looked like anymore, but the longer I was around Avett, the better my cloudy vision of what should and shouldn’t matter became.
I found an old T-shirt with ARMY scrawled across it in faded letters. The thing had fit when I was twenty pounds lighter and a lifetime less cynical. I knew there was no way in hell her tiny frame could fit into any of my sweatpants, so I rummaged around until I found a pair of soft flannel boxers that Lottie had given me one Christmas that were still in the packaging. I should have known then and there that if the woman I was married to, went to bed next to every single night, didn’t even notice that I was a boxer-brief guy that the marriage was doomed. Her lack of interest in me and my underwear should have been the beginning of the end.
I knocked lightly on the door so Avett could hear me over the running water. She left the door open a crack and her smoky scented clothes, in a sloppily folded pile, were next to the sink. The sight made me grin because even when she was trying to be neat and tidy she was still a jumbled disarray.
“Avett, I’m gonna leave this stuff for you and toss …” I was going to tell her that her clothes would be in the wash but the words died on the tip of my tongue when her hiccuping sob sucker-punched me right in the heart.
I knew she was going to need a moment, that all her fight had drained out of her and left her depleted and worn, but I didn’t expect her to be devastated, on the floor of the luxurious shower like a hurricane that had lost all the wind that kept it raging.
She was lying on her side, naked and shaking as water poured down on her. Her eyes were closed, but even through the steam and the water rushing over her face, I could see the tears squeezing their way out between her tightly clenched lashes. This was what uttered devastation looked like. This was the wreckage that was left behind after the storm passed. Another whimpering sound like that of an injured animal escaped her, and I couldn’t stop myself from moving towards her. I’d heard men that had made their first kill and seen their friends and brothers in arms die up close and personal sound less tragic and heartbroken than she did at that moment.
I tossed the clothes that were now crushed in my clenched hands on the sink, and without even a thought as to what the water would do to my Bruno Magli loafers or my favorite silk tie, I walked into the shower and bent down so that the cooling water was hitting me and not her. I reached up to crank the tap off and picked up her quivering form. She was both too hot and too cold as she curled an arm around my neck and continued to whimper and cry into the now-soaked fabric of my shirt. She was shaking so hard that it was hard to hold on to her naked skin, not that my dick was concerned with her volatile emotional state. All it recognized was that she was wet, completely bare, and clinging to me like I was the last thing she had in this entire world. All of those things made the insensitive bastard very happy and very eager to get closer to her.
I flicked my sopping hair out of my eyes and balanced precariously as I juggled to hold on to her and to get out of my soggy and most definitely ruined shoes. I sat on the edge of the bed with her slight weight in my lap and lifted a hand so I could push her tangled and dripping hair away from her face. Water was leaching off of both of us and onto the hand painted duvet cover but I hardly noticed because she peeled her teary eyes open and locked them on mine.
“I’m a mess.” Her voice was broken, and in her gaze I could see that her heart was, too. When I was younger, I never had anything, so losing it never even occurred to me. As an adult, I had everything and I told myself I would do whatever it took to hold on to all of it, but seeing this vibrant and vital woman destroyed and broken over things that could burn, lost over items that were only belongings, I started to wonder if my effort to acquire possessions of value and prestige had been misguided and focused on the wrong priorities all along.
“I know you are. That’s kind of my favorite thing about you.”
Her arm around my neck tightened and her chilly fingers found their way into the hair on the back of my head.
“Shut up.” She said it without heat, and despite the sorrow in her gaze, a rough grin pulled at her mouth.
I tugged on the slippery strands of her hair and watched as it coiled around the length of my fingers. “It’s true. I find the chaos that surrounds you fascinating and intriguing. It seems to be as much of who you are as this pink hair. You’re never boring or predictable.”
Her dark eyebrows furrowed a little and she shifted on my lap so that instead of sitting across my legs, she was straddling me, with both her arms around my neck and her very bare center hovering right over the damp cloth that covered my dick. Her breasts pressed into my chest and I bit back a groan as she reached for the knot in my tie, not to loosen it, but to pull me closer.
“I don’t want to be chaos. I want to be something and someone that doesn’t destroy everything that it cares about without even trying.” She tugged me until our lips were lined up, and when I stuck the tip of my tongue out to trace the curve of her bottom lip, I could taste the salt from her tears and the tang of her longing.
“Some of us are born into the storm and some of us are born to chase after it, I guess.” I breathed the words into her as she wiggled her ass and set herself more fully onto my erect cock. There was no missing the way that it throbbed between us or that the only thing separating me from her entrance was the cage of my metal zipper. I was going to have a permanent indentation from the fastener on the underside of my dick if she didn’t stop moving around. I dug my fingers into the curve of her hip and lifted one hand to the side of her face.
She blinked at me and then leaned forward just enough so that her forehead rested against mine. “What happens when the person born to chase the storm finally catches it?”